New York Central Train #78

To anyone who has spent time next to a railroad track and seen a train coming, you know it can be an exhilarating experience. The thrill is even more realized if you are near the tracks on a warm, summer day. The sights and the smells are unequaled by anything. But try doing all of this in the middle of the night and it adds a whole new dimension to watching trains. John M. Prophet was very adventurous when it came down to recording trains in the Buffalo area.

The recording in this section is very unusual -- not necessarily because of its uniqueness (because it certainly is), but more for how Prophet caught this moment on wire.

Broadway Avenue, in Buffalo, was always known for it tremendous vantage point as a place to watch trains. This was so because a large portion of Broadway runs directly parallel to the New York Central main line from East Buffalo all the way out to Depew, New York. Starting at Tower 47, which was located right where Broadway goes under the railroad tracks at least one mile east of Central Terminal, Prophet got in his car and actually paced several trains as they raced down the main line.

What's so unusual about this is that he was doing it at 1:30 in the morning at speeds exceeding 60 miles per hour! Of course, back in April of 1953, the traffic on Broadway at that hour of the morning was very light and the sheer power of the locomotive was so deafening that Prophet could have been more than a few hundred feet away from the engine and the microphone still would have picked up the sound loud and clear.

Niagara Class Locomotive at Central Terminal

The recording begins with New York Central's train number 78, pulled by Niagara-Class locomotive #6018 pulling away from Tower 47. This train had previously pulled out of Central Terminal bound for Boston and was forced to stop at Tower 47 to let the 20th Century Limited go ahead on the main line. As the recording continues, the train accelerates to a breathtaking clip.

Prophet continues to pace the train until he gets to Dick Road which, back in 1953, was a grade crossing. Today the main line is carried over Dick Road by a bridge. Of course, not far from this overpass is the Amtrak station in Depew, New York.

To see a map of this area, click here.


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The Recordings

The Buffalo History Works